When people, predominately non-sailors, find out that John and I live on our sailboat and cross oceans (well, one ocean—seems we just can’t shake ourselves loose from the North Atlantic), the thing they most often ask is, “Aren’t you afraid out there?”
I usually dive into a long-winded treatise on how we only go sailing at the appropriate time of year, we watch the weather closely, we have a good seaworthy boat, etc. Though all of that is true and the risk we face is minimal (compared to commuting on a busy highway, at least), it doesn’t change the fact that yes, I am often afraid; usually about what could potentially happen rather than about what is actually happening, though very occasionally I’m scared about that too!
I have just finished reading High Endeavours: The Extraordinary Life and Adventures of Miles & Beryl Smeeton written by Miles Clark, Miles Smeeton’s godson. In 1955, when they were both in their fifties, having never sailed before, Miles and Beryl set out in their sailboat Tzu Hang, traveling over 130,000 miles during the next 15 years. During those years they made three attempts on Cape Horn, getting pitchpoled the first time, rolled over the second time, and finally making it around on their third attempt.
I really enjoyed the book—it’s well written in a loving but candid manner—but what really interested me is that, after the pitchpoling that almost killed them, Miles and Beryl kept going. If it had been me, once I got safely back to land, I’d have put an oar over my shoulder and walked inland until someone asked me what I was carrying! Yes, they were tough and adventurous but, when it came down to it, they kept going despite being afraid, not because they weren’t afraid.
FEAR: the opportunity to stretch your self, increase your knowledge, learn respect of your opponent, and realise your limitations therefore realising your potential.
I bought this book for a friend and he just told me he’s literally halfway through reading it but Miles and Beryl have yet to set foot on a sailboat… (had to double check the title to make sure I bought the right book).
That’s true, and maybe it’s even kind of the point too. To me the amazing thing, that we can all learn from, about the Smeatons is just that: they didn’t start sailing until later in life, but were much better prepared than many would be because they had led adventures lives before they went sailing.
If you want an all sailing read about the Smeatons I can highly recommend Once is Enough.
I concur, John, and reading about the Smeatons, singly or together, is worth the wait to get to the sailing parts, which after all were only one aspect of what were by any standards very adventure-filled lives. I would also recommend Beryl Smeeton’s “The Stars My Blanket: she was no slouch in the questing department before she met Miles! (http://www.amazon.ca/The-Stars-Blanket-Beryl-Smeeton/dp/0920663397)
My review of “High Endeavours” for the interested is here: http://volumesofsalt.blogspot.ca/2012/01/inspiration-to-aspirational-sailor.html
Thanks John and Marc – good points and recommendations. Sometimes one just wants to be in a sailing headspace, but the book is well written and I am glad to hear the sailing part is worth the wait (I’ll be reading it next!).
Jeffrey, if you develop a taste for such tales of early cruising before the advent of electronics, the possibility of outside rescue or even docks in most places, I would suggest the books of Eric and Susan Hiscocks’ books, particularly “Cruising Under Sail” (http://www.amazon.ca/Cruising-Under-Sail-Eric-Hiscock/dp/087742215X), the books of Hal Roth, particularly “After 50,000 Miles” (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3711465-after-50-000-miles) and anything by Francis Chichester or particularly Bernard Moitessier (“The Long Way”). While most people today looking for “core, unaided seamanship” look to the Pardeys, and I have no objection to any of their works, I have found looking at the first generation of post-war cruisers, the ones who themselves inspired the Pardeys, to be of most value in understanding the meaning of setting off big oceans in little boats. Happy reading. A lot of these are available from libraries or in used book stores, by the way.
Thanks for the good reading list Marc, and I share your mindset. There is so much to learn it’s difficult to imagine ever being truly ready…
I used to be at that stage, and would never declare myself even close to knowing it all, but I’ve realized that I’ve learned a lot over the years and probably that aspiration to be “competent but humble” will keep us out of trouble! Or so I hope.